With winter well on its way in the white-capped Selkirk Mountains, I opted to take my Flex 15°F quilt-style sleeping bag by Katabatic Gear to a slackcountry summit just outside my homebase in Nelson, British Columbia. I had high hopes that the lofty, 850 fill-power, water-resistant duck down insulation would keep me warm and dry, providing me a comfortable, restful, recovery-filled sleep on top of the freshly snow-dusted peak.
Since I often adventure with my partner, Mat, it’s a huge win if we can save the space and weight of bringing a second quilt by sharing one, which is feasible on warmer trips. We knew that opting for the ‘wide’ version of the Flex would help cover both our bodies when opened as a blanket, which for us was well worth the small weight penalty.
But on this frigid trip up Elephant Mountain, we’d each have our own quilt.
Before leaving for our overnight adventure, I looked up the down lot number that came on the quilt’s hang tag. Plugging in the digits to TrackMyDown.com revealed that the down in my Katabatic quilt was plucked from the European Grey Duck and came primarily from Poland, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine.
A day later, up on Elephant Mountain, Mat and I found ourselves donning every layer in our pack as we watched the blazing orange sun disappear through the dispersing clouds that lingered in the valley below. The stars began to speckle the sky and the frost glittered on our tent ... one we soon climbed in.
I zipped and cinched up the bottom half of my quilt, creating a mummy-style closure at the foot. Then, I attached the strap system to my pad, snapped the down-filled collar, and slid inside. In the cocoon of the Flex 15°F, I warmed up quickly and was able to slowly layer down my kit.
The Katabatic Flex 15°F comes with two different strap systems to regulate temperature and keep out drafts.
One strap option, which is the most ideal, is their patented Cord Clip sleeping pad attachment. It connects flat, plastic tabs along the back edges of the quilt flaps to two, 2mm strings that wrap around your pad. With this system, the quilt stays in one spot, no matter how much you wiggle and wriggle in the night, because it quite tightly cinches face down against your pad.
The second closure system, which I chose on this first particular trial-run night, utilizes two wide black webbing straps that weave through loops sewn onto the quilt’s edges. When these straps are clipped closed, it forms a sleeping-bag style experience, but notably still leaves your back exposed.
This setup does not require a sleeping pad attachment, and I opted for this on that first night only because we brought our two-person sleeping pad.
In hindsight, this was not the best option for a cold night. As I flipped and flopped, the back open area of the quilt would slide around to the front, ending up on top of my body and releasing the body heat I had been storing up to the cold night air. The Katabatic instruction manual warned me about this; operator error.
Later on, I came to realize that I could really just use the Cord Clip system to cinch the bag closed, even without an airpad, creating a tighter, warmer seal than what I found to be possible with the webbing system.
Once I got settled in, and stopped worming about, heat collected quickly under the thick down baffles of the quilt. The baffles are designed to allow you to manually manipulate the down that fills them; so you can pile it all to one end, or the other, fill your cold spots, or spread it out for even distribution.
The drawstring around the down-filled collar is also a great bonus. It’s easy to cinch tight once you’re in the bag, it stops drafts from sneaking in at the neck, and it keeps the quilt from creeping up around your face. (A few years back, I learned the hard way that burying my head in my quilt and breathing all night long will collect moisture in the down and dampen the bag ... and if cold enough, freeze the fabric.)
At 8 pm, the weather on my phone read -6° C (21.2° F) and dropping. Wearing merino tights, Goosefeet Gear down booties, a down jacket and a merino wool toque, the calories were kicking in, and I was, all at once, warm enough to fall asleep.
I was deep in dreamland when a wiggling, squiggling Mat woke me up around 2 o’clock in the morning. Mat was struggling to stay warm in his not-to-be-named three-season sleeping quilt. With him just too cold to sleep, we knew what needed to happen.
We unzipped, uncinched, unclipped ... opening up the Katabatic Flex 15°F into a blanket-style quilt for two. We snuggled up close and shared in the sweet, lofty, down goodness that allowed both of us to get some much-needed rest.
We awoke to a fresh trace of snow on the tent and a steady warmth radiating throughout our bodies. The Katabatic Flex 15°F had done its job, keeping us warm, dry and comfortable throughout the duration of a frosty night ... even once opened as a blanket!
While the shell of the quilt had a thin layer of dew on the surface, its loft didn’t seem to be impacted by the moisture, likely thanks to the DWR coating applied to both the quilt’s fabric and the down itself.
As we packed up our gear to hear home, I once again felt impressed by how easily and quickly the quilt compressed down, taking up less than half the space of the silnylon stuff sack it came in.
I tucked the tidy bundle into my Gorilla 40 backpack, and then we headed down the mountain for breakfast. Back home, I slung the barely damp bag over the laundry line outside, only to find it moisture-free an hour later.
I give the Katabatic Flex 15°F Quilt two thumbs up for packability, weight-to-warmth ratio, impeccable craftsmanship and responsibly sourced materials. Now, I look forward to finding out if it's durable enough to withstand my hard-wearing lifestyle.
Pros of the Katabatic Flex 15°F Quilt
- Super versatile for whatever weather
- Zippers, snaps and cinches allow it to adapt to a huge range of conditions
- Opens up to a blanket or closes into a sleeping bag
- Continuous horizontal baffles allow for manual manipulation of the down
- Cinchable down-filled collar and toe box keep out drafts or open up for airflow
- DWR coating on HyperDry down and surface fabric
- Great warmth-to-weight ratio
- Super packable and lightweight
- Responsibly sourced down, eco-friendly and recycled fabrics and yarns
- Pad attachment system keeps sleeping bag in place while you move in your sleep
- Backpacking quilts, as a rule, don't provide the all-encompassing, burrito-like closure that traditional sleeping bags offer. The idea is that quilts reduce weight because you're instead relying on the insulation in your pad to keep your backside warm.
The open areas on the back of the Katabatic Flex quilt will allow cool air in, especially if you don’t use the patented Cord Clip pad attachment system, which comes with the quilt and mitigates this issue.
- The silky silnylon stuff sack tends to get static-y and will collect dog hair off the floor ... this could be a pro or a con, depending how you look at it! Woof. Woof.
- Pertex Quantum Eco Ripstop (0.85oz/yd)
- Pertex Quantum Tafeta (1.0oz/yd)
- 850 Fill Power HyperDRY ™ Water-resistant Responsibly Sourced Duck Down OR 900 Fill Power HyperDRY ™ Water-resistant Responsibly Sourced Goose Down
Ali Becker is a freelance adventure writer and narrative storyteller who shares compelling conversations about personal transformations, overcoming limitations, wellness education and adventurous situations. You can follow her rambling adventures on social at @thisisalibecker or at her blog thisisalibecker.com.